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The Coven on Grey Street | Regional News

The Coven on Grey Street

Written by: James Cain

Directed by: Harriet Prebble

Running at Circa Theatre until 27th May 2023

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

When shall we three meet again? Well, it’s been 10 years since the last family gathering – just a blink of an eye for these immortal beings – and more centuries still since the Weird Sisters met Macbeth. Now, Daphne (Helen Moulder), Fay (Hilary Norris), and Sybil (Irene Wood) are back together again, this time to meet Daphne’s fiancé Ted (Peter Hambleton). But bringing a new member into the familial fold won’t be a piece of quiche…

Red Scare Theatre Company’s The Coven on Grey Street brings Shakespeare’s three witches to current-day Hamilton to lunch together under the hallowed pōhutukawa tree at Daphne’s place. Looming large over the action, the tree is realised in all its might and majesty by set designer Lucas Neal. What an eye for detail! Its stunning features are highlighted by lighting designer Isadora Lao’s magic touch, while flourishes from sound designer Patrick Barnes tinkle and charm.

The actors make quick work of playwright James Cain’s whip-smart dialogue and lean into its tender moments with easy grace, natural rapport, and collective chemistry that crackles like a toad on a bonfire. It’s clear from both the writing and acting that underneath the sass and snark, these characters love each other like only family can.

Moulder and Hambleton sprinkle longing gazes and lingering touches into a romance that feels like the stuff of fairytales. Both soon come into their individual power, navigating sky-high character arcs with ease. Norris pulls no punches as the potty-mouthed Fay, but beneath her no-nonsense exterior, we feel her aching need for connection and approval. Wood is comedy gold, delivering acrid one-liners with a straight face and supreme composure at every turn. I want Sybil to be my grandma and I especially want to sic her on all of my enemies.

An intricate script, visionary design, consummate cast, and expert direction… these were the ingredients chosen to create the perfect little production. The Coven on Grey Street is pure magic.

Bloch & Shostakovich: Enduring Spirit | Regional News

Bloch & Shostakovich: Enduring Spirit

Presented by: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Conducted by: Sir Donald Runnicles

Michael Fowler Centre, 28th Apr 2023

Reviewed by: Tamsin Evans

The NZSO has wanted to bring Sir Donald Runnicles to New Zealand for some time. The disrupted last couple of years were worth the wait. Runnicles is vastly experienced and highly regarded, and the same can be said of cello soloist Nicolas Altstaedt. The evening also marked a celebration for principal contrabassoonist David Angus, retiring after 41 years.

It’s rather lovely for an audience to be welcomed in person by the conductor and star soloist. Runnicles put the programme in context for us, explaining some of what lies behind each work. The orchestra was bursting with energy, firepower, and passion by the time we reached the final piece, Symphony No. 10 in E minor by Dmitri Shostakovich. We got there by way of Ernest Bloch’s personal and political expression of his Jewishness, and the gentle and beautiful Musica Celestis by Aaron Jay Kernis. Written for string orchestra and inspired by the idea of angels singing in heaven, the overwhelming feeling was of being surrounded by waves of perfectly executed, languid harmony and melody.

The anguish of Solomon, resisting the world’s earthly pleasures, is expressed through the solo cello in Bloch’s Schelomo. Altstaedt’s performance was a tortured tour de force. From the opening phrases, cello over brass, to the impressive final movement, this was a supremely confident and utterly compelling performance.

Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10 in E Minor is a perfect match with Runnicles, celebrated for his interpretation of Romantic and post-Romantic repertoire. Shostakovich traversed several narratives with his Tenth Symphony and Runnicles drew each distinctive twist in the tale from the orchestra. This music tied my insides in knots with an intense, rich sound that was both lush and taut, sometimes filled with fury and rage, sometimes lyrical and dance-like. Even with close to 100 players on stage, Runnicles gave every instrument their place, bringing a welcome clarity to Shostakovich’s story.

Into the Woods | Regional News

Into the Woods

Presented by: WITCH Music Theatre

Directed by: Nick Lerew

Te Auaha, 27th Apr 2023

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

Into the Woods is a Brothers Grimm-inspired musical that follows our favourite fairytale characters post-happy ending. With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, the 1987 Broadway sensation explores hope, community, and the pervasive power of desire. Oh, the things we’ll do to see our wishes come true.

A Baker (William Duignan) and his Wife (Áine Gallagher) have been cursed by the Witch (Greer Perenara) next door. In order to reverse the curse and fulfil their deepest desire of having a child, they must retrieve magic potion ingredients from Jack (Tara Canton) and Milky White (Felicity Cozens), Little Red Riding Hood (Aria Leader-Fiamatai), Rapunzel (Emily Yeap), and Cinderella (Gayle Hammersley) – each pursuing a wish of their own. Into the woods they go, where they encounter Princes (Jackson Burling, Glenn Horsfall), an overzealous Steward (Ed Blunden), a wicked Stepmother (Joanne Lisik) and her nasty daughters (Aimée Sullivan, Mia Alonso-Green), a ravenous Wolf (Burling), a badass Granny (Paula Gardyne), and a Mysterious Man (Kevin Orlando) who speaks only in riddles. Meanwhile, Orlando narrates the chaos as a Giant (Cozens) sets up shop in the sky above the kingdom. 

Into the Woods is a musical of two parts, where the first half is filled with upbeat music (performed exquisitely by a live orchestra), good humour, and, of course, happy ever afters. It’s clear from the buzz of elation in the atrium at interval that the first half is more enjoyable, but I’m putting that down to the script. The second half descends into grim madness, where multiple tragedies befall our heroes as the consequences of their choices come into sharp relief. The music is discordant, the silence loud. While the action may jolt and shudder, WITCH does a bang-up job of keeping the train from derailing.

There are too many magical moments to pack into this review, even if I wasn’t already over word count. Burling and Orlando’s comedic timing at every turn; Gallagher’s jaw-dropping Moments in the Woods, which I swear rouses one minute of relentless applause mid-scene; the Princes’ Agony and Horsfall’s dazzling twirlies; Canton’s charming portrayal of the earnest, dim-witted Jack; Perenara’s powerful Children Will Listen; Duignan’s understated but assured performance, which crucially grounds the action; Cozens’ star turn as Jack’s best friend, which nearly steals the show… No mean feat considering how exceptional the show is! The entire cast is talent personified and their vocal performances are fire (musical direction by Hayden Taylor and Maya Handa Naff).

Joshua Tucker’s enchanted production design envelops us in a magical world that is a pleasure to escape to. Bravo WITCH, Disney ain’t got nothing on you.    

Living | Regional News



102 minutes

(3 ½ out of 5)

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

I have been the biggest Bill Nighy fan ever since I first saw him in Love Actually, where I became hopelessly devoted to him. I then proceeded to watch as many of his movies as I could legally get my hands on. For all you readers out there who appreciate him as much as I do, I have a friend who met him, and she said that he is as lovely in real life as you would expect. So I would like to start off by saying: Bill Nighy, thank you for your service; you are a treasure.

I would also not judge you if you went to watch Living, Nighy’s newest film, solely for him. His performance is truly remarkable and his role, which is layered and nuanced, brings out the best in him. He is enough to sell it, but I believe you should go see Living for other reasons as well.

Based on Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 movie Ikiru, Living traces a similar story. Set in 1950s London, Williams (Nighy) is a product of his times. He is a civil servant in the department of public works, he goes to work every day on the train, ensures as little as possible gets done in his sector, and then takes the train home to repeat the cycle in the morning. When his doctor informs him that he only has a few months to live, Williams decides to make the time he has left count.

The screenplay was adapted by Japanese British Nobel Prize-winning novelist Kazuo Ishiguro and was written specifically with Nighy in mind as a tribute of sorts to Ikiru. The cinematography by Jamie Ramsay is exceptional. And Aimee Lou Wood as young Margaret Harris is lovely. There are moments that drag on and are a bit anticlimactic, but maybe that’s the point.

Living is a simple movie. It is rich and deep in emotion despite the English reticence, but the plot is quite uncomplicated. We are used to action-packed movies with drama at every proverbial turn, so it was refreshing to take a step back and just enjoy the moment. Perhaps that is all Williams wished for as well.

RAW! ASMR | Regional News


Created by: Amy Atkins

Directed by: Sara Hirsch

BATS Theatre, 26th Apr 2023

Reviewed by: Stanford Reynolds

A random assortment of fruits and vegetables greets us as we walk into RAW! ASMR, set on an otherwise minimally decorated stage. To begin the show, over the speakers, the soothing voice of ASMRtist persona Letitia Lickkit (Amy Atkins) describes in detail everything on the stage, and some of what we are about to observe. When she appears, she is dressed in a “cheeky and glam” gold-sequinned costume. Beginning the evening this way focuses us in on the finer details of what will be presented to us, and invites us to pay close attention to all of the noises that the performer plays with, the central experience of RAW! ASMR!

The show leans into the comedy of this situation – one performer trying everything she can to trigger our ASMR response, a pleasant tingling sensation that many people feel when hearing particular sounds. She whispers into a microphone, plays with fruit, and taps on objects, fluctuating between calming and manic, and the audience laughs at the absurdity of what she is doing as it contrasts with how earnestly she is trying to win us over.

ASMR videos have created their own community and culture on their corner of YouTube, and Amy breaks down the typical characteristics of them, such as previews of her ASMR techniques at the beginning of the show and roleplay portions of the experience. Credit must also be given to the crisp and clear sound quality.

Simple lighting changes support the experiment on our senses as we are treated to (or subjected to) tapping, crunching, whispering, and chewing noises, among many others.

As the performance goes on and Letitia Lickkit becomes more and more frantic, the meaning becomes clear. She’s desperate for this to work, for us to be happy, for us to like her – for us to like and subscribe! The one-woman show feels like a perfect criticism of social media culture and the yearning for attention hidden under what we choose to present, a message that Amy aptly – albeit unconventionally – communicates.

Interactions | Regional News


Presented by: KAT Theatre

Cochran Hall, 21st Apr 2023

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

KAT Theatre is the only central Wellington community group regularly mounting a season of short plays. This is commendable as a way for directors to gain experience and actors to flex their performing muscles without the time commitment and staging requirements of a full-length production.

Interactions as a collection is aptly named as it’s the interplay of characters in the three pieces that makes them engaging. This is particularly evident in the first one, Token of Friendship, written by Nataliya Oryshchuk and directed by Marty Pilott. It’s a neat story of cultural awkwardness as enthusiastic employee Carol (Ava Straw) is given a clipboard full of questions and a lei to befriend a colleague in a cheesy corporate getting-to-know-you exercise. Her target is Miroslava (Corrina Gordon), a Belarussian immigrant to Aotearoa. Their amusingly cringe-inducing exchange that converts to common ground over divorce is expertly played by the two actresses. A shoutout to Gordon for her masterful accent skills.

Next up is Anton Chekhov’s The Proposal directed by Hayden Rogers. This over-the-top satire about the greed and shallowness of Russia’s landed aristocracy is energetically played by a committed trio of female actors (Jamie Fenton, Manisha Singh, and Heather Lange), two of whom are playing men. The casting choice provides an interesting and fresh perspective on this classic short play and raises additional questions about male behaviour and motives.

After the interval, Domestic Bliss by Christina Stachurski takes to the stage. At 90 minutes long, this isn’t really a short play. It would have benefitted from cuts to the script to make it fit the one-act format, which would prevent the cast reaching for their lines. While an entertaining and at times poignant exposition of three women (Liz Ebrey, Cinnamon Machin, and Kelly Bennett) from different eras struggling with female life, the script lacks conflict. Conflict equals drama in theatre and this is largely missing. The cast make a good fist of it, however, and their occupation of the same kitchen is cleverly managed.

One Night Band | Regional News

One Night Band

Presented by: Squash Co Arts Collective

Created by: Liam Kelly

BATS Theatre, 15th Apr 2023

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

As a theatre reviewer in Pōneke, I’ve seen some out-there stuff. Women screeching in buckets of mud, bald men singing Rihanna, murder by banana… Since I first started writing for Regional News eight years ago, our creative community has surprised, delighted, and floored me at every turn. But I have perhaps never seen anything as unique as One Night Band.

A live band (MC Liam Kelly, vocalist Pippa Drakeford-Croad, keyboardist Ben Kelly, guitarist Tessa Dillon, bassist Peter Hamilton, and drummer Lennox Grootjans) writes, performs, and records a new song every hour on the hour with audience input. At the end of 12 hours, they have an album.

In my 4pm session, we’re given a prompt: a piece of media that recently inspired us. The chosen audience contribution is a TikTok about trawling for jellyfish. We brainstorm what this might sound like and settle on a blues-rap set in an apocalyptic world where humans only eat jellyfish.

The blues verse is sung (beautifully by Drakeford-Croad) from the perspective of a jellyfish about to be eaten. “It’s hard being a fish made of jelly, when you’re destined to end up in a belly” goes the chorus, which somehow I’m up on stage singing the third harmony for. Meanwhile, two human audience members write and perform a killer rap bridge about eating said jellyfish.

One Night Band is the epitome of a communal experience. There are beanbags, couches, and even colouring activities in the programme. It reminds me of devising theatre with my buddies at uni, something I didn’t think I’d get to relive anytime soon. I so appreciate the opportunity and the atmosphere of camaraderie in the room.

While it might be cosy and casual, there’s unrelenting talent here. The band is a “yes and” machine, accepting any offer and churning out a pretty great song in 60 minutes. The lyrics rhyme, the hook is tight, the bass is thick, and there’s even a keyboard solo that sounds like a jellyfish. How wonderful to watch art being made in real time. And how much more wonderful to have helped in the making.

The Portable Door | Regional News

The Portable Door


155 minutes

(2 out of 5)

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

From what I have heard from fans of Tom Holt, the highly acclaimed, accomplished, and prolific British novelist, the book The Portable Door is one of the most beloved young adult novels of all time. But what about the film rendition of the same name? The reviews online have been mixed, with people ranging from overjoyed to disappointed and even angry. Supposedly the movie doesn’t follow the book. As for my review?

I’ll start with the good. Christoph Waltz as CEO Humphrey Wells and our very own Sam Neill as right-hand man Dennis Tanner, as always, never fail to amuse and entertain. I have the utmost respect for both of these silver screen powerhouses, and in all honesty, they carried the movie with their talent, gravitas, and natural presence. Without these formidable villains, the film would have been – albeit beautifully designed by Matthew Putland and cinematically engaging thanks to Donald McAlpine – quite frankly a corporate spinoff of Harry Potter… but not as good.

That said, The Portable Door book was written well before J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world came to life, so perhaps it’s the other way round. From the palpable disappointment from Tom Holt fans though, The Portable Door film simply did not meet its full potential.

In the film, J.W. Wells & Co is a company that deals in crafting “coincidences” in the real world. However, the mysterious disappearance of John Wells Senior (also Christoph Waltz) has led to Wells Junior attempting to data mine the world’s collective consciousness to advertising companies. This concept is eerily close to home and quite interesting. The execution just doesn’t deliver. Wells Junior employs lost-soul Paul Carpenter (our lead, Patrick Gibson) to find his missing portable door. Why? Well I’m not sure as it doesn’t seem to have much to do with the threat of data mining the entire world. The story doesn’t connect, causing the audience to disengage and thus the stakes just simply aren’t high enough.

It’s fun for sure, but it’s nothing to write home about. If you’re after a rollicking and predictable fantasy-adventure story, then it will hit the mark. In retrospect I feel I watched two separate films sitting on opposite sides of The Portable Door.

Fundamental Forces  | Regional News

Fundamental Forces

Presented by: Orchestra Wellington

Conducted by: Marc Taddei

Michael Fowler Centre, 15th Apr 2023

Reviewed by: Dawn Brook

Orchestra Wellington’s season started with a bang with Marc Taddei’s inventive programming drawing an integrating arc over two masterpieces from the 18th century and two from the 20th century. CPE Bach, son of the illustrious Johann Sebastian, is seen as the father of symphonic form. His Symphony in E minor demonstrates the greater emotional freedom of expression that emerged through his music. This was seen again in Haydn’s Symphony No. 39 in G minor, Tempesta di Mare.  Stravinsky, though his discordant tonalities broke from convention, harks back to the structural order and rationality of earlier times in his Violin Concerto in D, while Prokofiev puts dramatic effect before all else in his Scythian Suites with an astonishing amount of brass and percussion creating an ear-assaulting volume level. The count of 17 brass instruments and 10 percussionists tells all!

So the audience was treated to a music history lesson as well as four wonderful performances. The energy in CPE Bach came from strongly punctuated rhythms, sudden changes in volume and pace with very marked rallentandos, and changes in texture through the addition of wind instruments and horns to the predominant strings. Tempesta di Mare had even greater contrasts with beautifully produced string pianissimos, dramatic interjections, and suspenseful pauses. The performance of both works was sparkling.

The excellent soloist in the Stravinsky Violin Concerto was Natalia Lomeiko, a winner of the Michael Hill International Violin Competition and current professor of violin at the Royal College of Music. The concerto is unconventional: the soloist hardly ever stops playing, has no dashing bravura solo, and the predominant orchestral components are brass and wind rather than strings. Contrasting rhythms between different players give the work a restless quality. The sheer beauty of the second movement brought an audible murmur of appreciation from the audience. For me, the concerto was the concert’s highlight.